With Pastor Stephanie on Sabbatical, members of the church were asked to give a reflective note for the NOUS's this summer in place of the Pastor's Note. Read below for this month's note from Gwen Carr and Nancy Hopkins-Garriss:
I am so glad that as I write this Stephanie will be coming back. I pray that this time of sabbatical has been renewing and refreshing for her. Sabbatical practice is not just for a pastor though. It also gives the church a time and space for reflection, a time and space to try new things of its own and to become aware of the Spirit’s leading. As we approached this season of Sabbatical practice, the Pentecost team has led us in seeking the Spirit as we interacted with a set of guiding principles that are foundational for our congregation. During the summer there were times set aside to reflect on what was rising up for us from the sermons we heard by guest ministers. There was appreciation for the ministers and what insight they shared with us. And while there were many things to consider, a few things rose in conversations frequently. Throughout this summer we have continued to voice concern, ask questions about, and explore ways that our community of believers will interact with our physical structures and grounds in ways that honor those who have gone before us and will help us care for creation. As we move into “yet to come” living out the dreams of God for this congregation and for ourselves, faithful expression of God’s call will keep in mind the foundational words we have read together this summer. New expressions of our call will certainly bubble up as they have in the past. I am sure that Trinity will remain open to the ways the Spirit leads and we will continue to dig deeper for spiritual health, care for creation, reach out to help meet the needs of the community and world and we will seek to marginalize inequities of power.
One of the tools Trinity will use as we continue to be a leader not only in this community but in the broader church is the structure for being a Matthew 25 church. Nancy Hopkins-Garriss convenes the Matthew 25 Task Force and she has written here to share the work and vision of the task force that will guide us in the unfolding of the Spirit’s work into the future.
The Presbyterian Church USA has challenged churches and institutions of the church to make a commitment to Matthew 25. The Matthew 25 focuses from the PCUSA are:
1. Building Congregational vitality
2. Dismantling structural racism
3. Eradicating systemic poverty
The Session of Trinity felt our faith expressed through the House Churches, Marks Groups, the Season of Repentance task force and our commitment to the 4 Marks of the Church fit together well with the focuses of the PCUSA, so Trinity is a Matthew 25 congregation.
At the May session retreat the decision was made to have a team to study how to address our commitment with the addition of a standing team to Trinity’s structure in order to meet the following objectives:
1. Supporting Trinity’s commitment to live as a Matthew 25 church
2. Providing systems of support for House Churches and Marks Groups, as well as individuals in following their calls to live out the four marks of the church
3. Continuing to keep focus on the work done by the season of repentance task force and its ongoing meaning for Trinity’s mission and life.
So what does that mean for us as we go into the future and this post sabbatical time? I believe we are challenging ourselves to a renewed time of listening to what God is saying to the church today: to avoid molds of our own making while building on what we have done in the past with house churches and other ways of being faithful to our calls.
For me personally, I see what we are planning as a way to hear and respond to each person’s call and support house churches, marks groups, and individuals in living out their calls. When I was a young member of Trinity, I went exploring by spending time in intentional communities such as Taize, Iona, Koinania, Reba Place, Sojournors, and others. When I came back, I was talking with Don Allen and with my house church about what I felt called to do. I was asked, “If you could do anything, what would it be?” I responded that I wanted to live in community and work with children. The response was, “well let’s do that, then.” And our mission at Jarius house, which was an intentional community that took care of foster children was born. We had our ups and downs through that time, but the love and support of the Trinity folks was amazing. It allowed that vision and many others to become real.
My dream for us at Trinity and for the ongoing work of this Matthew 25 team is that when anyone shares a call, a vision, a dream, there is a structure and a plan to support them through their discernment process for that call and to be an ongoing resource for support, care, and accountability as we live out the call to support the hungry, imprisoned, poor, disenfranchised, naked, and the least of these.
Gwen & Nancy